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ballot proposals

It is petition signing time in Michigan.

When you go vote tomorrow it is very likely that you will be greeted by a petition circulator.

These circulators look for registered voters because they need to submit enough signatures to the state in order to quality for next year’s ballot. Maybe you’ve already met folks trying to get you to sign onto a petition regarding marijuana legalization, redistricting, or whether Lansing should move to a part-time Legislature.

Michigan's oddly-shaped 14th congressional district, currently represented by Brenda Lawrence, is one example of political gerrymandering.
Public Domain

There's ballot petition currently circulating that seeks to end gerrymandering in Michigan.

The Board of State Canvassers approved the format of the petition on August 17, and the group spearheading the campaign, Voters Not Politicians, has been collecting signatures since then.

More than half a million people voted absentee in this week's primary election
Lars Plougmann

Several ballot proposals for Michigan’s 2018 election cleared a hurdle today.

The Board of State Canvassers approved the form of proposals on earned sick time, marijuana legalization and redistricting.

That doesn’t mean the board guarantees the content of the ballots will hold up against lawsuits. But it makes sure the campaign won’t succumb to a challenge in front of the board on technical issues after they gather signatures.

The Michigan Supreme Court this week said “not yet” to a group trying to stop fracking in Michigan.

The group, The Committee to Ban Fracking in Michigan, is now on its third attempt to get a question on the ballot to ban the controversial process used to drill hard-to-reach pockets of natural gas.

A ballot campaign to make Michigan a part-time Legislature state could be on the horizon - an effort, perhaps, to make state government more efficient, but the effort carries at least a whiff of gubernatorial politics.

Map showing the top 100 travel patterns based on trips taken in 2010.
RTA of Southeast Michigan

In the November election, voters in Macomb, Oakland, Washtenaw and Wayne counties must vote on whether to approve a tax that would fund new transportation between the four counties. 

When you walk into the voting booth, this is the language you will see on your ballot.

Some of you may already know exactly how you're voting, but for those of you looking for more information about the proposal, we've got you covered.

What transportation is being proposed

Marijuana plants
Flickr user A7nubis / http://j.mp/1SPGCl0

LANSING, Mich. - Marijuana won't be on Michigan's statewide ballot in November.

The state appeals court and the Michigan Supreme Court each turned down appeals Wednesday by a group trying to legalize the recreational use of marijuana.

A group called the Michigan Comprehensive Cannabis Law Reform Committee submitted 354,000 signatures, apparently enough to get marijuana on the ballot. But the Board of State Canvassers said more than 200,000 were collected outside a 180-day period, a decision that left the group short of enough names.

Signatures are collected for the MI Legalize campaign.
Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

As a citizen, you have a right to petition the government for redress of grievances. At the state level, that right and the right to put referenda on the ballot can be restricted or, in some cases, circumvented.

The group that’s trying to legalize marijuana in Michigan is telling the state: See you in court.

And the outcome of the challenge could have a huge impact on politics, law-making, and future elections in Michigan.

Ballots
flickr http://j.mp/1SPGCl0

Republican state lawmakers are fast-tracking a bill making it harder to put issues on the statewide ballot.

The legislation would set a hard 180-day limit for collecting petition signatures. Right now, campaigns can argue that older signatures are valid and should be counted.

Senate Bill 776 passed on a party-line vote.

Republicans say it makes the law more clear.

“Everybody knows it’s going to be within those 180 days,” said state Senate Majority Leader Arlan Meekhof, R-West Olive.

Rep. Lisa Lyons speaking in National Harbor, Maryland in 2013
flickr user Gage Skidmore / http://michrad.io/1LXrdJM

Last December, in the final hours the Legislature was in session for 2015, a bill passed both Houses and was later signed by Governor Snyder.

That bill had originally been 12 pages, but was replaced by the 53-page Senate Bill 571. Several legislators say they didn't know the contents and the changes, but it still passed. Some legislators say they later regretted voting for it.

Jack Lessenberry
Michigan Radio

This Week in Michigan politics, Jack Lessenberry said the recent shooting in Kalamazoo won't prompt legislation on gun control any time soon, he explained the controversial "gag order" law and gave an update on Flint and Detroit


Information freeze thaws after injunction on election law

Feb 13, 2016
State law specifically says people without photo IDs, can sign an affidavit - and still vote
Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

LANSING, Mich. (AP) - An information freeze for local and school officials is thawing after a federal judge issued a preliminary injunction on a new Michigan election law that critics called a gag order.

The injunction came as a relief to many local and school officials fearful of legal repercussions for distributing information about upcoming ballot proposals. Gov. Rick Snyder signed the legislation into law this year.

Dearborn Mayor John B. “Jack” O’Reilly, Jr.
(courtesy City of Dearborn)

When Republicans pushed through a campaign finance bill at the end of last year’s Michigan Legislative session, it was met with little resistance. In fact, many would be hard-pressed to remember what exactly the bill was attempting to fix. 

The provision, which was added just hours before the last session of the year closed, banned any public body or most public officials from using public money to spread factual information about local ballot measures in the 60-day run-up to an election. 

The ballot campaign to add LGBT and women’s rights to the state constitution is kaput, at least for this year.

Suspending the campaign

The Fair Michigan campaign succumbed to the reality this past week that it was not going to get the establishment support and financial backing it needed to put the question of adding gender equality and LGBT rights to the state constitution’s equal protection clause.

 There’s been lots of debate over the past few days about the political wisdom of going ahead in Michigan with a couple of ballot campaigns after similar efforts suffered big defeats last week in Houston and Ohio.

OH to MI? Apples to oranges

It’s the upstarts versus the Establishment. Again.

And, this time, we don’t mean the Tea Party versus the Republicans. Rather, we’re talking about the gay rights movement in Michigan.

It looks like we won’t be seeing an LGBT rights question on the statewide 2016 ballot.

Yet, it was not that long ago that it seemed a near-certainty that LGBT rights groups were ready to go to the ballot next year to amend Michigan’s Elliott-Larsen Civil Rights Act if the GOP-led Legislature refused to act.

One month from tomorrow, voters in Michigan will decide the fate of Proposal 1, the ballot measure that would raise more than a billion dollars in new money for roads.

The voting begins

For some, voting has already begun. Absentee ballots for the May 5th vote have been out for more than a week. And, along with the absentee ballots, political pollsters have been in the field, too. They’re trying to figure out just where voters stand on the issue and for those pushing Proposal 1, it doesn’t look good.

A new poll indicates voters will turn down a road funding proposal on the ballot in May. Target Insyght conducted the poll commissioned by the political news service MIRS. “Fifty-five percent of voters say if today the election was held they would vote ‘no’ against it,” said Ed Sarpolus with Target Insyght.

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

The Jackson city council tonight will discuss asking voters for a big tax hike to pay to repair the city’s crumbling roads.

Like other Michigan cities, Jackson’s roads have been getting worse for several years.

State AG Bill Schuette wants to make sure no one can vote straight-ticket this November.
Personalincome.org - http://www.personalincome.org/vote/ / Flickr - http://j.mp/1SPGCl0

Hahaha! No. We're just kidding. 

It's really hard. 

But we were serious about there being only two steps. 

We looked into this question as part of our MI Curious project - people send in their questions about Michigan or its people, questions are put up for a vote, then we look into the winning question.

This time, the winning question came from Michael Bieri.

"What would it take to realistically end gerrymanding in Michigan?" 

Marijuana
USFWS

On Nov. 4, voters in 11 Michigan cities will consider legalizing small amounts of marijuana. That’s the largest number of municipalities to ever consider the question in a single election in the state. As Michigan Public Radio’s Jake Neher reports, marijuana advocates think they can win all of them.

Michael Dorausch / Flickr, http://j.mp/1SPGCl0

The Michigan primary election is on Aug. 5, and one of the things you’ll be looking at is Proposal 1. It asks voters to approve a tax policy change, but the proposal is very confusing.

To help us clear this up a little, Bob Schneider joined us today. Schneider is with the Citizens Research Council of Michigan. The organization is a nonpartisan non-profit group that objectively analyzes policy issues like Proposal 1.

*Listen to the full interview above.

Matthileo / Flickr

This Week in Michigan Politics Christina Shockley and Jack Lessenberry discuss the top political headlines of the week. This week's topic include:

  • Proposals to boost school funding.
  • Drama over Michigan's restrictions on how ballot campaigns can collect signatures.
  • How a bankruptcy plan for Detroit might come as early as next week.
  • How Detroit Public Schools have lost a collective 160 days from power outages.

Listen to the full interview below

In 270 days – come Election Day 2014 – it’s not just candidates you’ll be voting for, there are likely to be plenty of ballot questions, too. And, much like 2012, when there were half a dozen ballot questions, we might just see a repeat of Ballot-o-palooza.

Ballot questions can sometimes get people who might not be super-invested in voting for a candidate to actually get out and vote for a particular issue. For example, 2004, when a slew of anti-gay marriage ballot proposals may very well have helped George W. Bush win reelection.

But it’s not easy to get ballot questions passed. Voters tend to shy away from passing new laws via ballot. In fact, if you don’t start out with more than a 60% approval of your question, the chances are you won’t win come Election Day.

In 2012, $154 million dollars were spent on ballot questions and yet all six were defeated.

Which raises the issue: Money spent on ballot questions is often money that would otherwise be spent on other campaigns. Thus, the decision to go to the ballot with a certain issue raises lots of questions: Is it the best use of money, personnel, volunteers? How will it affect turnout – that’s if it affects turnout at all.

What will this year’s dynamic be?

Well, look for news early next week on the minimum wage ballot drive that would initiate a law raising Michigan’s minimum wage to somewhere between $9 and $10 an hour.

What is it about Decembers in Lansing? Last year, it was right-to-work. This year, the controversy is over a petition initiative, a veto-proof law that will require people to buy separate insurance for abortion coverage. It could not be part of a basic health insurance package in Michigan.

It was an initiated law, put before the GOP-led Legislature by the very, very influential anti-abortion group Right to Life. As we’ve noted before on It’s Just Politics, Right to Life is virtually unrivaled in its ability to organize a petition campaign, and to squeeze votes out of the Legislature, especially when Republicans are in charge.

So, that’s it, right? Law is passed. All done.

Well, not so fast. Because what is begotten by a petition drive can be challenged by a petition drive. Michigan’s pro-choice movement thinks it can take down this new law with a referendum. In fact, meetings have started to try to organize a ballot drive.

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

No?

Well, dozens of Michigan counties and townships are holding special elections today. Most are focused on public school district proposals. Polls are open from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m.

Here are some election highlights:

warrenski / Creative Commons

Michigan voters rejected Proposal 3 on Tuesday. The proposal would’ve required utilities to get 25 percent of their electricity sales from renewable sources by the year 2025.  It was controversial partly because it would’ve amended the state constitution.

Howard Edelson is the campaign manager for CARE for Michigan. The group worked to defeat the proposal on behalf of the state’s utilities.

Stateside: Financial transparency in politics

Nov 7, 2012
Laura Weber / Michigan Public Radio Network

Millions of dollars were invested in Michigan’s recent ballot proposals.

While citizens were aware that money was being spent, it was often unclear how much money was spent and from whom it was coming.

Michigan Radio’s Lester Graham and Rich Robinson, director of the Michigan Campaign Finance Network, spoke with Cyndy about the need for financial transparency in elections.

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